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Australia's Top 100 Public Access Golf Courses - 2010

from the Golf Course Guide

Australia's Top 100 Public Access Golf Courses - 2010


2010       COURSE         2009
1 BARNBOUGLE DUNES 1
2 MOONAH LINKS - LEGENDS 2
3 JOONDALUP - QUARRY/DUNES 4
4 KENNEDY BAY nr
5 THE DUNES 3
6 MAGENTA SHORES 5
7 MOONAH LINKS - OPEN 7
8 BARWON HEADS 8
9 THIRTEENTH BEACH - BEACH 10
10 PACIFIC HARBOUR 9
11 THE CUT 6
12 PORTSEA 12
13 BONVILLE 15
14 BROOKWATER 11
15 HOPE ISLAND 14
16 CAPRICORN - CHAMPIONSHIP 20
17 GLADES 17
18 CLUB PELICAN 16
19 COOLUM 18
20 LAKELANDS 21
21 VINES - LAKES 22
22 VINTAGE 23
23 HERITAGE - ST JOHNS 19
24 THIRTEENTH BEACH - CREEK 33
25 MEADOW SPRINGS 25
26 PORT FAIRY 30
27 EYNESBURY 34
28 ST MICHAEL'S 32
29 RANFURLIE 50
30 SANCTUARY COVE - PINES 24
31 PACIFIC DUNES 27
32 HORSHAM 28
33 ROBINA WOODS 26
34 CAPE SCHANCK 35
35 PARADISE PALMS Top 100
36 SORRENTO 31
37 LAGUNA - TURTLE POINT 13
38 LINKS LADY BAY 29
39 MURRAY DOWNS 40
40 NOOSA SPRINGS 41
41 TWIN WATERS 43
42 SANDS TORQUAY 39
43 LONG REEF 46
44 KOOINDAH WATERS 42
45 ROYAL HOBART 37
46 ALICE SPRINGS 36
47 BONNIE DOON 38
48 HERITAGE - HENLEY 47
49 NAROOMA 48
50 CRANBOURNE 49
Next 50 Alphabetic
Top 100 ALBANY Top 100
Top 100 ARALUEN Top 100
Top 100 BELMONT Top 100
Top 100 BRIBIE ISLAND Top 100
Top 100 CAMDEN LAKESIDE Top 100
Top 100 CAPRICORN - RESORT Top 100
Top 100 THE COAST nr
Top 100 COBRAM BAROOGA - OLD Top 100
Top 100 COLONIAL Top 100
Top 100 COOLANGATTA - RIVER Top 100
Top 100 COROWA Top 100
Top 100 CYPRESS LAKES Top 100
Top 100 DUNTRYLEAGUE Top 100
Top 100 EAGLE RIDGE Top 100
Top 100 FEDERAL Top 100
Top 100 FLINDERS Top 100
Top 100 FORSTER-TUNCURRY - TUNCURRY Top 100
Top 100 GAINSBOROUGH GREENS Top 100
Top 100 GOLD CREEK Top 100
Top 100 GROWLING FROG Top 100
Top 100 HORIZONS 44
Top 100 INDOOROOPILLY - EAST Top 100
Top 100 KEPERRA Top 100
Top 100 KINGSTON LINKS Top 100
Top 100 LAKES ENTRANCE Top 100
Top 100 MCCRACKEN Top 100
Top 100 MOLLYMOOK - HILLTOP Top 100
Top 100 MT BROUGHTON Top 100
Top 100 NORTH LAKES Top 100
Top 100 OCEAN SHORES Top 100
Top 100 PALM MEADOWS Top 100
Top 100 ROSEBUD - NORTH Top 100
Top 100 ROSEBUD - SOUTH Top 100
Top 100 ROYAL PINES - GREEN/GOLD Top 100
Top 100 SANCTUARY COVE - PALMS Top 100
Top 100 SEATEMPLE Top 100
Top 100 SECRET HARBOUR Top 100
Top 100 SHEPPARTON Top 100
Top 100 SUN CITY Top 100
Top 100 TALLWOODS Top 100
Top 100 TASMANIA Top 100
Top 100 TOCUMWAL - CAPTAINS Top 100
Top 100 TOCUMWAL - PRESIDENTS Top 100
Top 100 TUGGERAH LAKES nr
Top 100 TURA BEACH Top 100
Top 100 VINES - ELLENBROOK Top 100
Top 100 WATERFORD VALLEY Top 100
Top 100 YARRAWONGA - MURRAY 45
Top 100 YERING MEADOWS nr
Top 100 YOWANI Top 100


This is the tenth consecutive year that The Golf Course Guide has presented a list ranking Australia’s best Public Access courses. We were the first to use this term to encompass both public courses and those private clubs that provide access to green fee players. We were also the first Australian publication to adopt a numerical and statistical ranking process, and to make this process transparent to our readers. We remain the only publication (as far as I am aware) that provides rankings under discreet criteria. Our weightings (40% Design; 40% Conditions and 20% Aesthetics) will not match the preferences of every golfer. However, by presentation of essentially three lists, we attempt to guide users to those courses that they will find most pleasing – whether their preferences are for design strategy, immaculate playing surfaces, or simply beautiful surroundings.


There are few changes and fewer surprises this year, with ongoing drought in southern Australian states and harsh economic conditions that have seen a few courses disappear from the drawing boards with only a couple of new openers. Barnbougle Dunes, a world class links (ranked in the world top 100 courses) on Tasmania’s rugged North Coast, designed by Tom Doak and Mike Clayton, seems to be firmly entrenched at the Number One spot, this year reclaiming lost ground in the Conditioning stakes as our judges applauded the maturing fescue playing surfaces and continued to enthuse about the stunningly beautiful and challenging design. No doubt it’s a stern test of ability, and holes into the wind play brutally long, but this golf course has something for everyone with generously wide fairways and multiple tee options that really do simplify the challenge for longer markers. At the time of going to press we understood that Doak’s other Australian design at St Andrews Beach on the Mornington Peninsula was to re-open as a Public Access course – we love this layout and it is certainly top 10 potential.


The Legends Course at Moonah Links has retained second spot courtesy of its outstanding playing surfaces (Conditions topped only by The Open Course next door). Ross Perrett’s design is a great example of what our judges seek – a course that provides strategic options for players of all abilities, and permits everyone to truly enjoy the experience. It is this criteria that principally differentiates our list from the rankings in other publications, and the main reason for the relatively poor ‘design’ showing of courses such as The Open and Brookwater, which we believe are great designs for the stronger player, but in many places too penal for the majority of public access golfers.

Joondalup’s best holes (the Quarry/Dunes nines) present a thrilling challenge and strike fear into the golfer’s heart from many of their elevated tees. However, a well struck shot is always rewarded and can make many a relieved player smile with satisfaction – just what we’re looking for! Combined with even better-groomed playing surfaces this year, and some small improvements that open up the vista, Joondalup claimed the No. 3 spot just ahead of the other top WA contender, Kennedy Bay. This marvelous links some 60km south of Perth re-opened to a rave reception from our judges about its exceptional playing surfaces, fine design and outstanding aesthetics. No golfing trip to the West is complete without a visit to Kennedy Bay and Joondalup.

The Dunes, Tony Cashmore’s wonderful links created on the Mornington Peninsula, and the course that ushered in a new standard of ‘pay for play’ golf in Victoria fifteen years ago held its No. 2 spot in the Design Rankings, again a near-perfect test of strategy and ability for golfers of every level, but slipped to No. 5 overall due to relatively superior conditioning at courses above it. The Dunes also heralded the “renaissance” of links golf in this country, as designers right around the coast began to recreate the style of course that gave birth to our great game. Only one course in our top 10 – Joondalup – does not look and play as a links, yet even here the Dunes nine has some ‘linksy’ holes.

Magenta Shores and Pacific Harbour, two Ross Watson creations that jumped up our list last year have retained their respective placings, as have Barwon Heads and Thirteenth Beach – Beach Course.

The Cut tumbled a few spots overall, effectively just down one spot on the design ladder and a few rungs beneath better-conditioned contenders in our judges’ collective view. To have a course of such high caliber outside the top 10 emphasises just how spoiled we are for choice and quality as green fee golfers in this country.

Other noteworthy movers were the renamed Championship Course at Capricorn (formerly the Old Course) now up to 16th spot; The Creek Course at Thirteenth Beach now ranked 24 as some minor redesign of the ‘creek’ itself and significantly improved conditioning were truly appreciated by our panel; Eynesbury at 27; and Ranfurlie up 21 spots to No. 29 despite barely moving in the Design list even though some of our judges feel that it deserves more design accolades. Paradise Palms leapt into the 35th spot from outside the top 50 with Graham Marsh involved in some redesign work and the new owners committing funding to dramatically improve playing surfaces and returning this great North Queensland track to the lofty position it once held. Unfortunately the reverse situation lingers at Turtle Point, Laguna Whitsundays, once ranked as high as No. 2.

Apart from the return of Kennedy Bay, only The Coast, Tuggerah Lakes and Yering Meadows were absent last year, and of these only Yering, the new home for Croydon Golf Club in the Yarra Valley is a new construction. This design is another fine example of Ross Watson’s work, awarded 23rd Design spot by our judges, who noted the generous landing areas flanked by plenty of water, wonderful creative bunkering and lots of options for all players without any brutal forced carries. The greens are already a delight with multiple tiers and variety in pin positions. As the fairways and roughs mature we are certain to see this layout move up our rankings.

As in past years, scoring was extremely close, and a small change in points awarded under any of the three criteria resulted in a significant move on the ladder. Whilst Barnbougle held a clear lead over second-placed Legends, all top 10 courses scored over 92%, the top 20 over 89% and a score above 80% was required for the Top 100. Many other courses missed the lists by narrow margins. Cobram-Barooga - West, Liverpool, Mirage and Warrnambool featured in 2009 but dropped off the current list.



BEST DESIGN


2010            COURSE          2009
1 BARNBOUGLE DUNES 1
2 THE DUNES 2
3 KENNEDY BAY nr
4 JOONDALUP - QUARRY/DUNES 3
5 THIRTEENTH BEACH - BEACH 4
6 MOONAH LINKS - LEGENDS 6
7 MAGENTA SHORES 5
8 PORTSEA 9
9 THE CUT 7
10 LAGUNA - TURTLE POINT 8
11 BARWON HEADS 10
12 PACIFIC HARBOUR 12
13 BROOKWATER 11
14 HOPE ISLAND 14
15 CAPRICORN - CHAMPIONSHIP 19
16 GLADES 13
17 CLUB PELICAN 15
18 MOONAH LINKS - OPEN 17
19 HERITAGE - ST JOHNS 16
20 VINES - LAKES 23
21 BONVILLE 21
22 EYNESBURY Top 50
23 YERING MEADOWS nr
24 COOLUM 22
25 SANCTUARY COVE - PINES 18
Next 25 Alphabetical
Top 50 CAPE SCHANCK nr
Top 50 CRANBOURNE Top 50
Top 50 HERITAGE - HENLEY 20
Top 50 HORIZONS Top 50
Top 50 HORSHAM Top 50
Top 50 KOOINDAH WATERS nr
Top 50 LAKELANDS Top 50
Top 50 LINKS LADY BAY Top 50
Top 50 MEADOW SPRINGS Top 50
Top 50 MURRAY DOWNS Top 50
Top 50 OCEAN SHORES Top 50
Top 50 PACIFIC DUNES Top 50
Top 50 PARADISE PALMS Top 50
Top 50 PORT FAIRY Top 50
Top 50 RANFURLIE 25
Top 50 ROBINA WOODS Top 50
Top 50 ROYAL HOBART Top 50
Top 50 SECRET HARBOUR Top 50
Top 50 SORRENTO Top 50
Top 50 ST MICHAEL'S Top 50
Top 50 TASMANIA Top 50
Top 50 THIRTEENTH BEACH - CREEK Top 50
Top 50 TWIN WATERS Top 50
Top 50 VINTAGE 24
Top 50 WATERFORD VALLEY nr


BEST CONDITIONS

2010          COURSE             2009
1 MOONAH LINKS - OPEN 1
2 MOONAH LINKS - LEGENDS 2
3 JOONDALUP - QUARRY/DUNES 5
4 LAKELANDS 3
5 KENNEDY BAY nr
6 BARNBOUGLE DUNES 10
7 THE DUNES 4
8 PACIFIC HARBOUR 6
9 BARWON HEADS 12
10 THIRTEENTH BEACH - BEACH 11
11 THE CUT 8
12 MAGENTA SHORES 7
13 HOPE ISLAND 9
14 GLADES 18
15 COOLUM 13
16 PORTSEA 24
17 BONVILLE 23
18 CLUB PELICAN 14
19 VINTAGE 16
20 THIRTEENTH BEACH - CREEK Top 50
21 BROOKWATER 15
22 VINES - LAKES 19
23 MEADOW SPRINGS 21
24 HERITAGE - ST JOHNS 17
25 BONNIE DOON 22
Next 25 Alphabetical
Top 50 CAPE SCHANCK Top 50
Top 50 CAPRICORN - CHAMPIONSHIP Top 50
Top 50 EAGLE RIDGE Top 50
Top 50 EYNESBURY Top 50
Top 50 HORSHAM Top 50
Top 50 KOOINDAH WATERS Top 50
Top 50 LINKS LADY BAY Top 50
Top 50 MURRAY DOWNS Top 50
Top 50 NOOSA SPRINGS Top 50
Top 50 NORTH LAKES Top 50
Top 50 PACIFIC DUNES Top 50
Top 50 PARADISE PALMS nr
Top 50 PORT FAIRY nr
Top 50 RANFURLIE nr
Top 50 ROBINA WOODS 20
Top 50 ROYAL PINES - GREEN/GOLD 25
Top 50 SANCTUARY COVE - PINES Top 50
Top 50 SANDS TORQUAY Top 50
Top 50 SEATEMPLE nr
Top 50 SORRENTO Top 50
Top 50 ST MICHAEL'S Top 50
Top 50 TOCUMWAL - PRESIDENTS Top 50
Top 50 TWIN WATERS Top 50
Top 50 VINES - ELLENBROOK nr
Top 50 WATERFORD VALLEY nr


BEST AESTHETICS

2010           COURSE              2009
1 BARNBOUGLE DUNES 1
2 BONVILLE 2
3 KENNEDY BAY nr
4 THE DUNES 3
5 JOONDALUP - QUARRY/DUNES 9
6 BARWON HEADS 5
7 MAGENTA SHORES 4
8 THE CUT 7
9 MOONAH LINKS - LEGENDS 10
10 LAGUNA - TURTLE POINT 6
11 PACIFIC HARBOUR 8
12 MOONAH LINKS - OPEN 12
13 PORTSEA 14
14 CAPRICORN - CHAMPIONSHIP 13
15 ALICE SPRINGS 19
16 THIRTEENTH BEACH - BEACH 17
17 NAROOMA 15
18 COOLUM 18
19 PORT FAIRY 11
20 BROOKWATER 16
21 CAPE SCHANCK 22
22 LONG REEF 21
23 HOPE ISLAND 24
24 FLINDERS 23
25 ST MICHAEL'S nr



We recognize the subjective nature of our rankings, and suggest their use as a guide only.

If you’d like to have your say about any of our lists go to www.ausgolf.com.au/course-rankings




WHAT ARE PUBLIC ACCESS COURSES?

To be considered for this list courses must be available for play by public, green fee paying golfers for most of the year. Courses available only to members, interstate or overseas visitors, or holders of official handicaps are excluded. The list includes:

Public Courses –the best courses are mostly privately owned these days, although a few are council owned. These courses have no members and are available to anyone who pays a green fee and conforms to a few simple requirements such as dress codes and owning or hiring a set of clubs.

Resort Courses – privately owned, with additional facilities on site such as accommodation. Such additional facilities are NOT considered in ranking the courses, but are described in the course listings in this book.

Private Courses – most golf courses throughout Australia are private clubs. An annual fee, and often a joining fee, is required, and members then do not usually pay green fees. Most clubs have tee times when the public may pay green fees and play the course, sometimes including club competition times. Such courses are considered “public access” in this Guide if they permit green fee players several days per week. Some private courses are only accessible to the public whilst they stay in on site accommodation. These courses are included in the list.
Other clubs are more exclusive, requiring guests to be introduced by a member, or permitting unaccompanied non-members access only if they are club members visiting from interstate or overseas. These courses are excluded from this list. However, since some of our readers qualify to play, we have printed the course rankings from Australian Golf Digest (Mar 2008 was the latest available) as a guide. These rankings are based on slightly different criteria from those outlined below, principally with a lower weighting on conditioning, so they are not strictly comparable.


HOW THE LISTS WERE COMPILED

The Golf Course Guide has published a list of Australia’s best Public Access Courses every year since 2001. Our list differs from those found in other publications in some important aspects. Clearly, we are focused only on those courses that encourage green fee players (see details under “what are public access courses”). Our judges have a range of ages and golfing abilities and are instructed to reward course designs that cater for golfers of every level. We are extremely proud of the methodology that we have developed over many years. We strive for transparency, with clear criteria, and we offer separate lists based on course design, conditions and aesthetics to enable readers to select courses that will most readily appeal to their own preferences.



Panellists were asked to score only courses they had played. Colleagues who play certain courses frequently were consulted to more accurately assess year round conditions. The judging period is from August 2008 to July 2009 in order to print the Guide and have it on sale well before Christmas. This unfortunately penalizes courses that have made improvements too late to be judged. All scores were standardised to compensate for any particular harshness or leniency, and spurious high or low results were rejected.

Course Design (40% weighting): How each hole presents an enjoyable, even thrilling challenge to golfers of all abilities from scratch markers to high handicappers and shorter hitters. The variety of different holes that make up the course, and the variety of shots that they require to test every facet of your game. The strategic design of each hole - where hazards come into play, reward for risk takers plus the existence of a safer/easier option, maybe with an additional stroke, for those who choose not to take the risk.

Courses with two separate 18s considered as two courses; where 27 holes available, the “best” 18 selected.


Course Conditions (40% weighting): Year round playing conditions (from best to worst season) and course maintenance of greens (greatest weighting), fairways, tees, rough and hazards.

Course Aesthetics (20% weighting): The obvious beauty of the setting and also that very subjective quality of ambience and tranquillity that allows the golfer to lose himself in his environment. For some golfers, the thrill of playing golf in a stunning (eg coastal clifftop) environment can far outweigh lacklustre design strategy, and even mediocre fairway conditions. For these players, our allocation of only 20% weighting will seem inadequate, and they should seek out courses from our Best Aesthetics list, rather than the overall rankings.







The Judges

George Begg is the golf writer for the Star News Group in Melbourne and a contributor to various publications in Australia and overseas. A member of Sanctuary Lakes, Altona Lakes and Corowa golf clubs he has a current handicap of 18. He is the Secretary of the Australian Golf Writers Association and a member of the voting council of the World Golf Hall of Fame.


Selwyn Berg is the Managing Editor of ausgolf and the Editor and Publisher of The Golf Course Guide. Handicap of 10 at Commonwealth.

Jeff Blunden is the Director of JBAS, an independent advisory company offering dedicated, professional advice to the golf and leisure industries.
He is a member at Bonnie Doon, playing off a handicap of 8.

Graeme Bond is Sports presenter on 3AW Fairfax Radio network where he has covered all the major Australian golf events for the past 13 years
A member at the National and Settlers Run, he plays off a handicap of 12.

Rohan Clarke is a Senior Writer for Australian Golf Digest. His handicap is 8 at Beverley Park, Sydney.

Brendan James is the Editor of Golf Australia Magazine and travels extensively to review and photograph courses. His handicap is 7 at Carnarvon Golf Club, Sydney.

Steve Keipert is the Editor of Australian Golf Digest, a role that takes him to golf courses across Australia. His handicap is 9 at Ashlar Golf Club, Sydney.


Garry Kennedy is Editor and Publisher of Hacker Golf Quarterly and General Manager of The Golf Course Guide. His current handicap is 14 at Heidelberg.


Jonathan McCleery is a golf author and investor who plays off 5 at Riversdale.

Peter Nolan is a keen golfer who plays off 7 at Rosanna.

Bill Parker has traveled and played extensively throughout Australia. Currently based in both SA and WA he retains membership of Kooringal GC VIC playing off 7.

Kevin Pallier has played golf extensively throughout Australia and the British Isles. He is a panellist for a number of golfing publications including Australian Golf Digest and Golf World (UK). He is a member at Wollongong Golf Club, NSW with a handicap of 10


Leon Wiegard is an honorary member of the PGA (Australia), President of the Olympians Club of Australia since 2000 and MD of Sportgard, organisers of corporate golf and tours. Handicap 11 at Commonwealth.

David Worley is a member at Commonwealth, Sorrento and Moonah Links who plays off 11. He has recently written a comprehensive book on British Links.